Northrop Grumman's B-2 Spirit strategic bomber is mostly black or dark grey, but has a symmetric pattern of distinctive, thin white lines painted on its wings and fuselage. I have not been able to find anything similar on other airplanes. Why does the B-2 have these lines and what is their purpose?

enter image description here

  • 66
    $\begingroup$ Comrade's username checks out :) $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Nov 19, 2019 at 10:07

3 Answers 3


@RAC and @Hobbes are right. I found a high res photo on defense.gov.

The crop below shows WALKWAY and NO STEP instructions indeed. Similar to what you'd find on a jetliner's wing.

enter image description here

It makes me wonder though why the person below did not abide.

enter image description here
Source: https://tucson.com/news/national/costly-b--bombers-both-tech-marvels-hangar-queens/article_273b0f50-71f6-56ca-a399-401e342658c1.html

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The guy looks like he's wearing special shoes/socks $\endgroup$
    – slebetman
    Nov 20, 2019 at 9:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @slebetman I doubt they'll let you clamber over it with your trainers/slippers/stilettos on. $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2019 at 17:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also grr tucson.com's lazy geoblocking strikes again! Extra amusing that they don't bother to take into account that the phone number will differ for their target audience. All around, very "f%$! the rest of the world" there. $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2019 at 17:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ He's making a shortcut. $\endgroup$
    – stackzebra
    Nov 20, 2019 at 20:52

At a guess, they're 'walk here' lines, to show where you can walk, with the rest of the airframe being 'don't walk'.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Correct. Like the other decals (serial numbers, Star and bars, panel outlines), they're light gray to reduce visibility at a distance compared to a bright color like white. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Nov 19, 2019 at 15:20
  • 24
    $\begingroup$ they're light gray to reduce visibility at a distance good thing too. We wouldn't want those pesky enemies knowing which parts of our wings are safe to walk on! $\endgroup$
    – dwizum
    Nov 19, 2019 at 19:36
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @dwizum Probably more relevant for the CUT HERE instructions on the cockpit $\endgroup$
    – Bergi
    Nov 19, 2019 at 22:51
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @dwizum: I realize you're joking, but to put things in perspective: back in the '80s (when I was in the Air Force) they were working on improving camo on F/B-111's, but the F-15 pilots were seeing them when they were sure they shouldn't. Eventually, an F-15 pilot admitted that they couldn't see the plane--what they could see was the pilot's shiny white helmet. Shortly after that, new helmets were also flat grey, and they issued camouflage tape to cover existing helmets. $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2019 at 23:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JerryCoffin that sort of thing is also why some air forces paint "fake" cockpits on the underneath of their aircraft, literally just to confuse an adversary for a split moment (and such moments can make or break you in a dog fight)... $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Nov 21, 2019 at 0:06

Military aircraft, believe it or not, have relatively thin sheets of aluminum, titanium, composite, or honeycomb panels for much of the airframe. To prevent these more fragile areas from being damaged, the wing is marked with where it is and isn't safe to walk. As for the white footwear, these are typically just the equivalent of the disposable headgear you see doctors wear when they go into surgery on any doctor show on TV. They're to protect the paint, to prevent scuffs, and to prevent damaging any special paint coatings such as radar absorption (stealth).

  • $\begingroup$ It's unclear from the photos – is the wing generally unsafe except for the marked safe areas, or is it the opposite? $\endgroup$
    – user1686
    Nov 22, 2019 at 10:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.